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The CIO's juggling act

The CIO's juggling act

Successful CIOs blend roles that seem contradictory, but are actually complementary, reports IBM in its first global study of CIOs.

Successful CIOs blend three pairs of roles. While these roles seem contradictory, they are actually complementary. This is the conclusion of IBM in its first Global Chief Information Officer Survey with more than 2500 CIOs interviewed worldwide between January and April 2009.

The report, entitled “The New Voice of the CIO”, points out on a day by day basis CIOs take on these three double roles:

• An insightful visionary and an able pragmatist.

• A savvy value creator and a relentless cost cutter.

• A collaborative business leader and an inspiring IT manager.

When CIOs combine these roles, they make three things happen in the enterprise: make innovation real, raise the ROI of IT and expand the impact of the business, says IBM.

In making innovation real, the report says when the CIO is acting as an insightful visionary they push for a broad technology agenda to help business profit from leading edge initiatives. On the flip side, they take on the able pragmatist role, which facilitates the productivity of current IT systems to free more time and budget for innovation.

On raising the ROI of IT, the CIO as a savvy value creator uses IT to produce greater business value, and teams this with a focus on lower costs and greater efficiency. Combining this with its counterpart, the relentless cost cutter, the CIO manages budgets and processes to eliminate or cut costs.

On expanding business impact, the CIO provides expertise in business and technology. The CIO works as a collaborative business leader, working on new business initiatives and cultural changes with other C-suite executives. At the same time, the CIO takes on the role of an inspiring IT manager, motivating the ICT team to deliver superior performance.

The report says CIOs spend around 55 percent of their time on activities that spur innovation. These include generating buy-in for innovative plans, implementing new technologies and managing non-technology business issues.

The rest is spent on the essential, more traditional task of managing the ongoing technology environment – reducing cost, mitigating enterprises risks and using automation to reduce costs elsewhere.

IBM says even experienced CIOs acknowledge they are strong in just one or two of the six CIO roles, and points out each role “requires at least some attention”.

IBM says CIOs have to manage change more than ever. An overwhelming 90 per cent of respondents expect moderate to substantial change ahead. IBM reports the top three external factors that will impact IT over the next three years are changes in the business model, budgets and macroeconomics.

“To deal with change on many fronts, successful CIOs regularly assess how they need to optimally blend all the roles that are part of their jobs today,” says IBM.

IBM says all CIO respondents point out they can only give more attention to new technologies after addressing current IT needs.

The report quotes the CIO of an electronics firm to sum up the challenge CIOs face today: “In IT, we are not magicians, but we are certainly jugglers”.

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Tags leadershipinnovationcostIBMCIO rolestrategy

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